1891 Shearers' Strike
January 1891 marked the start of one of Australia's most famous (or infamous) industrial disputes, the Shearers' Strike. On January 5, 1891 the strike began at Logan Downs Station in Central Queensland, when the station manager asked shearers sign a contract which would reduce working conditions and entitlements as well as the influence of the union.
The strike spread across other stations in Central Queensland towns such as Clermont, Barcaldine, Emerald, Springsure, Hughenden and Capella. Pastoralists attempted to introduce strikebreakers (non-union affilated shearers) who worked for a lower rate. Tensions ran high with police and troopers called in to protect the non-union workers as well as the property of the pastoralists. Striking shearers formed armed camps outside of towns.
After several months the strike was ultimately unsuccessful for the shearers, with many falling on hard times due to a lack of money. Thirteen of the strike ringleaders were arrested and sentenced to three years hard labour at St Helena Island prison. The strike however would eventually lead to the formation of the Australian Labor Party. You can find more detail about the 1891 Shearers' Strike in Shearers On Strike by R.C.Sharman (1963 - Journal of the Royal Historical Society of Queensland).
State Library of Queensland holds a number of materials recording this significant historical event which can be found through our One Search catalogue including a number of photographs from the period which have been digitised. A sample of these photographs are below.
Myles Sinnamon - Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland
Previous title - 125th anniversary - 1891 Shearers' Strike